I like to vary the accomodation so our next adventure from Leeds was south east down the A1 to a B& B at Cuckney and then golf at Lindrick located near the town of Worksop. Lindrick has firm fast running fairways partly due to the limestone underneath. There is little or no heather but plenty of rough and gorse if you don't stay on the fairways. The greens were excellent. Par 5, 4th hole is interesting with the green in a grotto like dell beside a stream and a huge rockwall. The three short holes up to the 11th are all good but there are some weaker holes when you cross over the road for holes 12 -17. There is now a new underpass where you return to the 18th tee. There are some quirky aspects which work well at Lindrick but overall I was somewhat disappointed in the feel of this layout where the Americans were defeated in the 1957 Ryder Cup. Perhaps that is why very few holes remain clearly in my memory.
Heading south, initially on the A614, I was greatly anticipating our booking at Notts, often referred to as Holinwell because of the water near the 8th tee. The fairways play as a links and can get a bit dry since they are not watered. There are some very good long holes, such as the 2nd and 17th, with banks of heather at the sides and thick bracken behind the greens. The par 3, 13th from the elevated tee is wonderful and also is the photo featured on the scorecard. The 16th is a fun short par 4 and the two closing holes are very attractive. I would love to revisit when the fairways were a little greener and the heather is in flower. Notts is a definite inclusion in your itinerary.
(photo Notts par 5,17th)
After playing Notts I then visited and walked part of Sherwood Forest Golf Club nearby. The course was a little dry but looked excellent with heather, birch trees and good looking bunkers. The greens looked particularly true and fast. The 4th is an attractive par 3 that plays downhill to the clubhouse. Interesting practice facilities are located in a pretty area near the 6th hole. The fact that it is a Harry Colt design with additions by James Braid makes me want to play it next time I am in the area.
The journey now heads east to Woodhall Spa, home of the English Golf Union. Of the two courses the Hotchkin is the one you should play. What a great course -tight fairways, excellent greens and 365 of the deepest bunkers I have ever seen. Even the fairway bunkers were very deep - one suspects that Colonel Hotchkin was in a grumpy mood when he planned this layout! Holes 2 and 3 can play as long par 4's into the wind, the 3rd having the distinctive old brick tower beyond the green. The par 3's are a feature of Woodhall Spa and are all challenging especially if you are in the deep greenside bunkers. The 12th is especially famous for the two competitors who both holed in one in their match 1982. There is a little respite with three shorter par 4's on the back nine. This is a difficult course for ladies with some very long carries over the heather on a number of holes.
(photo- the bunkers are a feature at Woodhall Spa)
We found the hotel of the same name to be below our expectations. Next time we will stay at the historical Petwood Hotel which we visited nearby. Apart from its lovely Tudor appearance and garden setting, this was the base for the famous Dambusters Squadron who flew the Lancaster bombers during the last war. There is some wonderful memorabilia including a photo of the squadron taken in 1942 with many standing on the wings of a bomber -sadly a large number of them did not survive the war.
Just south of Rugeley on the A460 was our next stop -a club with the unusual name of Beau Desert. This is a lovely, slightly hilly, course. Herbert Fowler was the designer and he left his usual calling card -cross bunkers a la Walton Heath. We had decided to have a look first so we had not pre booked any golf. Being a Saturday it was busy but they said we could play at 4.00pm. Seeing our plight, two members Phil and Terry (a past Captain) very kindly invited them to join us for a 12.30 tee time. That is what I love about golfing in the UK - members are usually so friendly to visitors such as ourselves - maybe they like the Aussie accent.
But let's return to the golf. Good large greens here and many with interesting slopes. The 9th is an interesting short par 4 of just 260 yards, slightly uphill to a well bunkered green. It is followed by a pretty par 3 that plays uphill though the trees. The only par 5's are the 15th and 18th with its attractive green setting lower down behind a gorse and heather clad gully. Inside the clubhouse was the best to date on the 2011 trip.
(photo Beau Desert par 3,10th hole)
Continuing south toward Sutton Coldfield the next golf was at Little Aston. The entrance is down a wooded lane through a rather exclusive residential area. The clubhouse is very nice but on the Sunday we played it was almost in total darkness with only one person on duty to service the bar. Membership here is only around 160.
The course is more parkland than heathland. The fairways were very dry but the tees and greens were excellent. The first six holes are nothing special and I am still puzzled how the 4th, a short par 4 of just 317 yards, can be rated index 1. I would rate the 10th 15th and 18th as much more difficult. The 9th and 13th are good par 3's amongst the trees with some plantations of heather to catch a duffed tee shot. I have never seen so many large cross bunkers on what is a relatively short course -I suspect this has been thee way of compensating for lack of length. This is at its extreme at the 14th and 18th holes. The pond near the 17th green is a more recent addition that seems out of character with the rest of the course.
Whilst admiring the magnificent practice putting green and its flower beds we met the son of the late John Beharell. He told us that his father had actually designed and implemented the construction of the green. (Note -John Beharell won the British Amateur at Troon in 1956 and was Captain of the R & A in 1998.)
Little Aston was pleasant enough but I have to say I found it to be less than my expectations.
(photo Par 3, 13th at Little Aston)
Continuing south, you will find Woburn just off the A5. There are three courses, all very good, and although I looked at all of them it was the Dukes that I played. This is one of the best of the inland courses but it is not heathland. There is a lovely ambience as you play alongside the pines, silver birches and chestnuts. Many of the drives are quite tight from the back tees with scenic tree lined fairways an very good greens. Most of the bunkers are greenside. The reticulation system has resulted in lovely green fairways that are not too lush or over watered. A very pretty hole is the par 3, 3rd played downhill with bracken and rhododendrons in front of the tee and behind the green. Don't be short at the equally attractive long par 3, 6th measuring207 yards. You will enjoy every aspect of Woburn which also has excellent clubhouse facilities.
(photo Woburn - par 3, 3rd at The Dukes course)
Due south of Woburn, hidden away near the B 4506, is Ashridge - a pretty course that is parkland but with something of a heathland feel. Henry Cotton was the professional at Ashridge for many years. Surrounded by forest this is a delightful quiet setting where you will often share the fairways with roaming deer. A little hilly, good greens and bunkers and rough that is not too penal makes for a course that is enjoyable for golfers of all standards. The view down the valley of the first fairway exemplifies the peaceful countryside here.
(photo Ashridge opening hole)
Several people had advised me that I should also play Berkhamsted nearby. Apart from the 9th hole near the clubhouse the course is deceptively flat. Instead of bunkers they have used grassy hollows and mounds to good effect near the greens. The back nine is rather more challenging with some semi dog-legs - usually requiring a fade. Whilst the course was a little on the dry side the bracken beside many of the fairways was thriving.
Probably the only negative aspect is that you have to cross a road twice and on the 14th you hit your tee shot across it. This is a pleasant course that I would be happy to revisit.
From here we drove down to Surrey which was more or less our base for the next few weeks. Our B & B was near the town of Farnham just off the A31. There are so many great heathland courses here it is hard to know where to start. One word of advice re booking tee times - some of these clubs are very private and you may need to book well in advance and some are a little on the expensive side.
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